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Balquhidder Glen has it's origins lost in the mists of time, but Balquhidder has been important, probably since neolithic times. Below the Manse there are remains of a stone circle, the Pudreag Stone, and there is a Neolithic chambered cairn near further east.
Balquhidder village - properly called 'Kirkton of Balquhidder' takes its name from the Gaelic' Both Chuidir' meaning 'village with fodder'. The small hamlet of Balquhidder sits in breathtaking scenery and shares its name from the glen in which it stands, Balquhidder Glen, which extends westwards for 12 miles from the A84 at King's House. The glen is a cul-de-sac, with its western end in the maze of mountainous country north of Loch Katrine and south of Ben More .
Fairs were regularly held at the township of Stronvar to the south of the Kirkton. This may have been the forerunner of the Annual Balquhidder and Lochearnhead Highland Games, now held at Lochearnhead. Stronvar house now provides superb self catering accommodation for up to 12 in that fabulous house with it's historic connections.
Robert the Bruce defied Edward I of England, and found himself on the run through these glens.He rallied the remnants of his army and won back Scottish independance at Bannockburn in 1314. There is a Bruce Cave (one of many), above Loch Voil at Craigruie in Balquhidder glen where he reputedly hid.
The MacLarens are the original hereditary clan of this glen and so remained until the arrival of the MacGregors. They take their name from Abbot Labhran of Auchtoomore. Their clan badge is a laurel, "labhras" in Gaelic. The clan's traditional meeting place is Creag an Tuirc, The Boar’s rock.
The MacGregors made their first appearance in Balquhidder Glen after losing their ancestral lands in GlenStrae to the land hungry Campbells. There is a small ruinous MacGregor burial ground at the head of Loch Doine at the foot of Glencarnaig. The first burial here was early 18th century. Rob Roy MacGregor is Balquhidder’s most famous resident. His story may be found on the 'Rob Roy' page.
In 1480, King James III appointed Sir William Stewart as his Royal Baille in the Parish. The Kirkton of Balquhidder was his centre of operations! There have been Stewarts at Ardvorlich on Loch Earn since the 15th Century.
By the 17th century Sir John Murray was the master of Balquhidder and Strathyre and relative prosperity was the general condition. All that changed with the series of Jacobite rebellions in support of the Stewart line which had been 'ejected in favour of the current Hanovarian dynasty'.
The popular romantic picture of a Highlander as a huge, wild man with a blood-dripping claymore in hand, and always in the face of battle, is a slight exaggeration. Certainly in times of nation strife, there would be regional involvement and there were clan feuds. One notable battle raged in and around the Balvaig in Balquhidder glen, all because a Buchanan of Leny had struck a McLaren wi' a dead salmon. Because the MacGregors weighed in against the intruders, who were massacred, the MacLarens were granted the privilege of entering the Church at Balquhidder before them a Sunday.
The Jacobite Rebellion in 1745 had disastrous consequences all over Scotland. In Balquhidder glen, many clans including MacGregors, MacLarens and Stewarts had supported the forces of Prince Charles Edward. Lands were forfeit and clansman and families burned out of their homes. The MacGregor estate Invercarnaig was laid waste. You can still see the remains of their burial ground at the top of Loch Doine.
The wearing of Highland dress was forbidden as was carrying arms. Even the bagpipe was outlawed, classed for the purpose of the Act, as weapon of war. In 1803, the MacLarens of Invernenty, at the west of Balquhidder glen , having held their lands since the Middle Ages emigrated to Nova Scotia.
Robert Louis Stevenson’s novels "Kidnapped" and "Catriona" have also made Balquhidder a household name In the 18th Century, the growth of sheep farms meant that the rest of the land became over-used and over-populated. When the military road was built from Stirling to Fort William in 1750, the concentration of population shifted towards this new road. Planned cottar towns were created to take the overspill. These were Strathyre, on the western side of the river, Lochearnhead or Rusgachan, which had then fourteen crofts. At the main road is Kingshouse Hotel, built originally as a drovers inn, and also used as quarters for the Army. The railway changed everything! The cottar houses at Strathyre and most of Rusgachan disappeared to make way for the new project, and only small traces remain. By the time the line from Callander to Lochearnhead was opened in 1870, new villas, hotels and a station had been built with a large yard.
Balquhidder Station was built after much representation by local people and the line was carried over a viaduct, whos remains may still be seen, to Crieff and Perth. Then the railways were closed in 1965 by Dr. Beeching, pre-empted in fact by a major rock-fall in Glen Ogle. The station at Lochearnhead became a Scout camp; the one at Balquhidder a caravan park, and the station yard at Strathyre now boasts some modern houses! Parish registers show that there have been fifty different family names from the 16th to the 19th Century.
The clan with the biggest numbers were the Fergusons, followed by the Stewarts, MacLarens, MacGregors and then Macintyres. The Carnegies came to Stronvar in 1849, and it was they who built Stronvar House and the present Church. Robert Fergusson who owned Stronvar and was Writer to the Signet in Edinburgh encouraged his clansmen to join him in Balquhidder. Amongst them was another Robert Fergusson who came to Muirlaggan. He extended one of the existing houses on the site in 1750 and a seventh generation decendant of his still lives in Muirlaggan today. Muirlaggan farmhouse itself is a building of some antiquity, still having a portion of 'heather thatch' preserved under a flat roof. built into the wall above one of the exterior doors is a primitive carved head and upper torso reminiscent of the 'McNab heads' commonly found around ancient residences and burial grounds of the McNab clan. The odd thing is that the stone was reportedly found on the shores.